Editorial: We’ve come far, but there’s still a long way to go

2019-06-02 16:50

Stats SA released its general household survey this week to show the nation how the country changed in the past 17 years. Statisticians compared this year’s data with that gathered in 2002 and drew a picture of how households performed between then and now.

The answer is a mixed bag, with horrifying developments in the number of South Africans on social grants and some good news in the number of households with appropriate sanitation.

First the good news. According to the survey, the number of households with proper toilets – defined as flush toilets connected to a sewerage system, septic tank or a properly ventilated pit toilet – increased from 61.7% in 2002 to 83% last year. Government can surely chalk this up as a success.

More good news is that 84.7% of households are connected to the electricity grid, compared with 76.7% in 2002. Only 3.6% of households rely on paraffin (16.1% in 2002) and 7.7% on wood (20% in 2002) for cooking.

There are 13.5 million formal homes in the country, compared with 8 million 17 years ago. Household size has also reduced, with three or fewer members in 62% of homes.

But it’s not all good. Up to 31% of all South Africans (in 44.3% of households) receive at least one social grant every month, up from 12.8% in 30.8% of households in 2002.

This illustrates a shocking decline of the economy over time and the dire unemployment rate, which has entire villages in the Eastern Cape – the country’s most grant-dependent province – depending on the state.

We are failing in the social space. A heartbreaking 46.8% of parents or guardians have never read books with their children and 43.1% have never drawn or coloured-in with them.

Only 38.4% of children aged zero to four attend an early childhood development centre – less than half (49.8%) in Gauteng and (43.75%) in the Western Cape, the richest provinces.

These figures show that South Africa has a very long way to go.

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January 19 2020